Recognising a Stroke – the Fast Test

It’s crazy to think 1 in 6 people worldwide will suffer a stroke in their lifetime [1]. In the United States, on average, one person every 40 seconds has a stroke [2]. Early medical treatment can significantly improve the recovery from a stroke, therefore being able to recognize the signs & symptoms is vital. 

What is a Stroke?

A stroke (sometimes called CVA – cerebrovascular accident) is a problem with the blood supply to the brain. The brain has a large and complex system of arteries and veins supplying it with blood. 

Broadly, there are two different types of stroke that can occur:

Ischemic stroke: A blood clot blocks an artery in the brain causing the death of brain tissue.

Hemorrhagic stroke: An blood vessel in the brain ruptures causing bleeding. 

The two main types of stroke

The most common type of stroke is ischemic stroke which accounts for approximately 87% of strokes. The only way to tell the difference between an ischemic/hemorrhagic stroke is a brain scan (CAT/CT scan) 

Recognising a Stroke

The signs and symptoms of a stroke can vary depending upon which part of the brain is affected. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Weakness down one side of the body
  • Facial droop
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of sensation
  • Severe dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Reduced level of consciousness

If you suspect a stroke, there is a simple test you can use. The FAST test:

Face: Does the person have any facial weakness? Can they smile evenly? Does one side of their face appear to droop?

Arms: Can the person raise both arms and hold them there?

Speech: Can the person speak clearly? Is their speech slurred? 

Time: Time to call an ambulance urgently if the person fails any of the above tests. Also note down the time the symptoms started or the time you arrived on scene for the emergency services.

Do not delay in calling for emergency medical help if you suspect someone is having a stroke. Delays in treatment can lead to permanent disability and loss of brain function. Remember, time is brain! 

Video Example


 [1] World Stroke Association: Facts and Figures about Stroke

 [2] The Internet Stroke Centre: Stroke Statistics – U.S. Statistics

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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